7 Excellent Reasons Why I’d Rather Be a Freelancer Than Be Employed at Your Company

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Many people still think that having a job in an office is the lifelong dream of a freelance worker.

“Oh, if only I could have a cubicle of my very own, and a boss with demands and coworkers with an incessant need to talk to me” said no work at home-r ever.

While the perceived “stability” of a 9-5 is a dream for many, if you really enjoy working for yourself,working for someone else isn’t an option.

When I’m feeling weak, and like I’m failing at life, I remind myself that there’s a reason why I love being a freelancer, and why working in an office might just make me suicidal.

1. Office Politics

There’s a reason why this is number one. In an office there are people everywhere, talking, listening, gossiping. In your business, after your job, after your clients, and so on… At my last office job, most people spent 70% of their time talking to one another on instant chat, or while standing around in the kitchen. They’d talk about other people, the bosses, the girls in sales, the managers. They’d be spreading rumors, asking questions about other people’s questions, and just wasting time. There was no sense of privacy, and it was like high school all over again.

You can say that every office isn’t like that, and that office politics don’t really exist. I’ll tell you right now to just turn around, head back to your sexy corner office, and leave the “little people” in the cubes alone. As long as there are different departments, and different areas in an office, there will always be office politics and nonstop talking.

2. Wasted Time

There are so many opportunities to waste time when you work at home. You could watch TV all day, or catch up on chores and errands, or spend your free time helping out your children or playing with your pets. Those are all things you can be doing, but they generally don’t affect your productivity unless you let them. I know that sounds like nonsense, but stick with me.

When you work in an office you have excuses, becauses. Traffic, donut break, coffee break, lunch break, walk break, stretch break, gossip in the kitchen time, chat online time, time spent looking up productivity tools and reading blogs. There are so many legitimate excuses to do other things because, unless you’re the boss or work on commission, you’ll no doubt have a dedicated number of tasks to work on and plenty of time to get them completed. The last time I worked in an office, I worked quickly because I’m efficient and fast and office life couldn’t keep up with me. I was actually told several times to not work so fast, take more breaks, because 1. I was out-performing everyone else and 2. there wasn’t any more work left to do and our manager himself was running out the clock everyday.

When you work at home, work gets done. Sure there are obstacles and distractions, but none of my freelance writers ever waste time babbling to me on chat. If their work is delayed, it’s because of serious reasons, either technical or personal. No excuses, no “time got away from me.” I haven’t, in my time freelancing, ever given an excuse like that, or let any of my home distractions gotten in the way of the work. I can keep my mind fresh, get outside, spend my time the way I need to while not wasting it between tasks to get through the week. And really, that’s the nature of office work isn’t it? We’d rather waste time under the reign of a boss and call it “work,” than actually be productive and get our work done on our own time.

3. Meetings

There is nothing, not even the DEVIL HIMSELF, that I hate more than meetings. They are the ultimate time-wasters, and like 1-2 hour long black holes in everyone’s week. If it can’t be written in an email, does it really exist? Or do you just need another excuse to waste time and not do what’s actually on your task list?

4. Dress Codes

I’m not a nudist, nor am I a gothic punk rocker with hot pink hair and a passion for leather. But I like color, prints, dots, stripes. When I walk into a formal office, all I see is grey, white, and light blue. The office supplies sport more color than the people using them. Why is this? To look professional? To blend in? That’s not me, and this isn’t elementary school.

I find myself ridiculously self-conscious and uncomfortable when I try to blend in, or feel like I’m trying not to be myself. Shouldn’t everyone?

5. Because I Don’t Need to Be There

There are very few jobs left in the world that actually require a human presence. Most things can be done remotely, or by robots. Seriously, think about it.

6. Creativity

I get my best ideas while in my home office, at the library, or in the Burien Press cafe. Even Starbucks, in it’s terrible cliche-ness, provides more creative stimulation than the grey box you have for me, in a sea of grey boxes, inside a grey building, in a sea of grey buildings. Grey layers around grey people. And I’m not grey.

Creative workers need comfort, warmth, the things that make them tick. Not the same box that the accountants, sales people, data entry specialists and customer service agents are thrown into. There’s no inspiration there, no motivation. Just a grey damper.

7. Control

This may be odd-sounding because freelance work is often unpredictable, but there is no stability like the kind you can control yourself. Sure, a 9-5 means that you can possibly have benefits and vacation time, but really, your employment isn’t really based on your performance anymore. It’s based on how the company is doing, how your boss is feeling, and your manager’s opinion of how you do your job. As a freelancer, you and the work you provide keep you in business, not someone else’s bottom line.

When I look back at my career so far, there’s not a single freelance job I’ve taken that I’ve regretted. When I work for myself, I’m improving myself. I’m learning, I’m growing, I’m taking on new clients and exploring new industries. The times that I spent my mornings sitting in traffic, in a rush to get to work, to get talked to constantly, to sit in nonsense meetings, to watch the clock just so that I could go fight traffic to get back home were the most wasted months and years of my life. Just years, gone. And did they make me a better person? No, they made me irate, and made me feel like less of a person because I wasn’t improving myself, I was improving someone else’s self.

I have a freelancer who writes for me who is pretty much living the dream right now, in my opinion. She travels constantly, house sits all over the world, blogs, and makes freelance money on the side for expenses, food, and equipment. At any given time she could be in Turkey, tending a farm while writing a few articles, or in Greece, or in Spain. What does she worry about? Definitely not what Cindy from accounting said about John, who was late for work this morning because of his crazy wife, or whatever else.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job

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It’s nearing December and I know now that satisfaction in my career probably won’t come to me any time soon. Part of it is not knowing what I want out of life and my future, the other part is fear that once I find it, I won’t be able to achieve it.

For over a year I was pleased with my freelancing efforts. I got to stay at home, I got to sleep in and make my own schedule. I got to move cross-country without worrying about finding a job when I got there. Everything I created while working was mine, every success was mine. I was stressed out,  focused on my clients constantly, but when I provided good work, I got instant feedback and support. The possibilities in freelance work are endless when you’re good at what you do, be it writing, design, or even tech support.

After my contract with Blue Volcano ended, and work for Firestarter slowed down to trickles and bursts of random tasks, I knew I needed something regular. If only to please my money-conscious husband. So for the first time in a long time, I entered the mass of job seekers. This time, in Portland. I went to career fairs and was bombarded with sales positions, I went on Craigslist and was stricken with  automotive service writing positions, and was so annoyed that I got a LinkedIn JobSeeker membership to contact employers directly. It took a week and I ended up at Bonfire. After a month of great work and praise, I was on the jobseeking hunt again.

Only this time it wasn’t a hunt. More like an angry, wandering prowl through websites and doubtful possibilities. I didn’t want to go through job loss again. I didn’t want to fail again. I didn’t want to put myself into that position again, in a small agency where my job could be dissolved without cause. I didn’t want to take a contract that could be over tomorrow because the employer ran out of money.

There’s a job that I’ve wanted for months. Technical Writer at my husband’s company. They’re paid fairly, it’s stable, and there are so many employees that there’s room to grow.

It’s been clear to me that no matter what I do, how many people I contact, how many times I contact the recruiter, they’re not hiring any more writers. They’re looking for engineers. Another slap in the face with my degree.

So where am I now? Really hating myself for taking a job that I really didn’t want in the first place for a paycheck. A meager, sliced up one at that with all the taxes and insurance payments that I didn’t have to worry about before. I’m not using my brain at all, I feel pretty stupid and it’s been barely a month since I started doing data entry in a cube. I feel even more stupid knowing that I’m the laughingstock of the office because I took this job with my stellar resume.

I’m kind of hurt, and lost at the moment. Trying to figure out what I want out of my career, so I can go after it, and leave this grey box of clickctrl+Cclickctrl+V.

Freelancers: You’re Not Invincible

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As a freelancer, it’s easy to think that you can do anything. This is especially true when you’ve never failed on a project, have met all of your deadlines, and have been blessed with great clients.

Up until yesterday, I was pretty confident that if it had to do with writing, or social media, I was on it. I’ve done alright on oDesk and have taken on some big contracts for companies all over the country. But I had a contract practically handed to me in a Skype interview, and it just didn’t feel right to accept it.

When you get an assignment for something that you aren’t exactly qualified for, you have two choices. One, you can take it on and research like a crazy person to prepare for it. Or two, you can admit that you can’t do it and move on.

I was so confident that I could take this contract as a Research Analyst that I pitched the guy everything I had. I matched the description perfectly, and I made a stellar impression. Then he explained the job, and the scope of it… just astounded me. I’ve done social media work before, managed entire accounts on my own, but I specialize in content and communities. So when he asked for projection plans and budgets, I was quick to point out that I’d not had the opportunity to control that side of an account before. He was so confident that I could make it happen that he said not to over-think it, and to get him a plan by the next day. I would be writing all the posts for the blog and social media, as well as managing the advertising and publicizing of the product. I’d track everything, propose costs and execute… Everything.

Now, I know people who do this kind of thing on a regular basis. One of my previous employers (Blue Volcano Media) can take an account already knowing the time frames and costs to get X amount of followers by X date. It’s not rocket science once you’ve done it a few times, but I haven’t! I’ve worked for a company like this where the goal of the account is to get followers and make sales, not to increase engagement and interaction with the brand. I wrote it about it in my blog post Social Media Marketing as a Science. Sadly, my part in that company was as a Community Manager, not as a strategist or scientist.

I signed out of the interview with the potential employer raving about my talents, and how much he trusted that I could get this done. It was fee-based, or fixed-priced, though, so I had to come up with how much to charge. I actually don’t have the slightest idea of what to charge most of the time, so I asked for a ballpark price from a friend. That’s when it really sunk in: I can’t do it.

I’m not afraid of failure and I’m not afraid of turning down an account, but it was so hard letting this guy down. He was excited, but I had to tell him that I didn’t have the experience needed for his project and would have to withdraw my application. He then switched tactics, asking for me to only do the research and writing aspect of it. Once I get the courage to turn something down, I’m pretty blocked off from it, so I had to do it again and explain that research and writing is so tied to the marketing side of things that it’d be best to hire someone who can do it all, or be prepared to have a team on it.

Not only was it best for me to turn this job down, even being as jobless as I am, it was better for the employer and his vision.